Scout Report: Inigo Martinez, the defender on Barcelona's shortlist
Barcelona have had a tough last few days as they have parted ways with one of the best attacking talent on the planet in Neymar, thus breaking up the magical trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. However, the fact that they received a whopping €222 million from the sale of the Brazilian comes as a matter of solace to the club and its fans as it gives them the financial freedom of pursuing the brightest of talents and it appears as if the Catalan giants are already preparing to strengthen their squad extensively over the course of the next few weeks.
One of the major issues surrounding the club last season was its inability to shut down the opposition comprehensively as their defence proved brittle at times and Ernesto Valverde has decided that Inigo Martinez could prove to be the perfect addition to the existing talent at Camp Nou, according to reports.
As Barcelona ready what is believed to be €32 million for the Spanish defender, let us take a look at what the 26-year old brings to the table.
Martinez was born in the Basque region of Biscay and first gained prominence when Real Sociedad’s scouts spotted him while he was playing for his boyhood club Aurrera de Ondarroa. He was soon snapped up by the La Real at the tender age of 18. Though a lot was expected from the player at a very young age, thankfully for him, he was allowed to adapt to a new life on the books of one of the big clubs in Spain as he spent a considerable amount of the subsequent two seasons with the side’s youth and reserve sides.
He made his debut on 27th August 2011 as he featured for 90 minutes in an away win against Sporting de Gijon and has thereafter continued to rise rapidly through the echelons of Spanish football with his solid performances at the heart of the Sociedad defence.
Style of play and strengths
The 26-year old has been trained to play as a centre-back and over the course of the last few seasons, has made the left centre-back position his own at the Anoeta Stadium. What has brought him the plaudits is his ability to be an effective ball playing defender, a trait that will surely endear him to the fans of Barcelona, a club renowned for playing free flowing football.
He is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, makes intelligent passes and does not have trouble carrying the ball out of his own half when required to do so.
While his abilities on the ball overshadow any of his other traits, time and again the 26-year old has proven that he can defend and do so effectively. He has shown an ability to make effective tackles when required, does not get caught out of his position very often and possesses the intelligence of a very experienced defender that often troubles the opposition.
Martinez has won close to 40% of the tackles he has attempted over the course of the last two seasons while also using intelligent interceptions to disrupt the opposition’s rhythm (he has averaged an interception every 37 minutes over the last two seasons), making him a performer to reckon with.
However, if there is one attribute to his defensive abilities that has helped his rise to prominence, it has to be aerial prowess. Despite standing at 5 ft 9 in, the player has shown the ability to handle the best of players in the air and does not shy away from putting his head where many defenders would not put their foot in order to help his side improve on their league positions season on season.
He does not have a history of missing long periods of a season with injuries that has helped his previous managers to bring solidity and consistency to their back line. Add to that, his ability to create goal scoring opportunity as well as score a handful himself and you would understand why Barcelona are keen to acquire his services.
If there is one weakness in his overall approach to a game it has to be his aggressiveness. He is often reckless when going into a tackle and that has brought about a reputation for accumulating needless disciplinary records.
Over the course of the last two seasons, he has been booked 17 times and sent off on one occasion, making him a constant point of possible trouble for his management. Should he improve on his disciplinary record, he could truly work out to be a great buy for the Catalan giants.
What comes next?
While Sociedad’s Sporting Director Loren Juarros has termed Martinez irreplaceable at the club, do not be buoyed by what is being said in press conferences these days, especially with Barca keen on activating his release clause. We believe it is only a matter of days before he is presented in the glorious red and blue colours of the Spanish giants.
A move to Barcelona is believed to be a great moment in any player’s career and Martinez deserves to be given the opportunity to represent one of the biggest football clubs in the world on the basis of his performances thus far.
The player has grown rapidly over the last five years with both Real Sociedad and Spain and its perhaps the right time to make a name for himself with the best in the business. However, it is not going to be easy moving to a legendary club, especially at the price he is commanding and he will need to muster his best of his performances to truly earn the respect of the club’s fans.